Parallels with the hate speech debate: the pros and cons of criminalising harmful securitising requests

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This article argues that public expressions of Islamophobia are best understood as securitising requests (i.e. calls on powerful figures/bodies to treat an issue in security mode so that extraordinary measures can be used to combat it), especially in those cases where Muslims are feared and disliked because of the perception that Islamic people are prone to violence and terrorism. This article argues that harmful and derogatory securitising requests targeting racial, ethnic, or religious minorities are on par with hate speech and it highlights the fact that many contemporary societies are now seeking legal protections against such security speech (expressed most notably in the desire to ban Islamophobia). It is from this perspective that this article poses an important research question: With a view to protecting those adversely affected, are legal protections against harmful and offensive securitising requests justified? The research question can be answered by drawing parallels to the existing hate speech debate in legal and political theory. The research reveals that, although the case against legal protections of harmful and defamatory security speech is ultimately more convincing, security speech alone can be so damaging that it should be informed by a number of ethical considerations. This article goes on to suggest three criteria for governing the ethics of requesting securitisation. As such this article fills a lacuna in the ‘positive/negative debate’ on the ethics of security that has engaged with securitisation, but that has failed to consider the ethics of speaking security.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of International Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2017


  • securitisation
  • hate speech
  • Muhammad cartoon crisis
  • harm
  • Islamophobia
  • positive/negative debate
  • security


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